Seagull mitigation proving effective, township says
Measures the Township of Minden Hills has undertaken to control the seagull population at and near the Scotch Line landfill are proving effective, staff reported to council during an Aug. 29 meeting.
In August of 2018, councillors heard delegations from Mountain Lake residents frustrated by the hundreds of seagulls who continued to litter their docks, boats and waterfront areas with feces, feathers and garbage. The south end of Mountain Lake is located not far from the township’s Scotch Line landfill. Issues with the high number of gulls on Mountain Lake have been ongoing for years.
In September of 2018, council voted to hire company Rentokil Steritech to mitigate the seagull population, for the period of one year. The company’s methods include the removal of eggs and nests as well as the culling of some birds, those typically being messenger gulls who take information about food sources back to the rest of the flock.
As public works director Travis Wilson told councillors during the Aug. 29 meeting, because of the high number of gulls at the Scotch Line landfill – last year, as many as 1,000 of the birds could be spotted at the landfill at one time – the company had initially believed the gulls were actually mating at the landfill site.
“In the spring of 2019, it was determined that the targeted ring-billed gulls do not nest in this area,” a report from Wilson reads. “This has led Rentokil to believe that the majority of the seagull population throughout the summer are primarily migrators with newly fledged birds. These migratory ring-billed gulls travel the Atlantic fly path and are primarily headed to the Niagara River for the winter.”
The cost for the company’s services for a year was approximately $35,000. Additionally, the company was given permission to do some additional falconry work, Rentokil also using birds of prey to ward off the gulls.
“The program required some adjustment when it was realized that the gulls were not nesting near the landfill, and as a result staff authorized Rentokil to increase the hawk and falcon activity throughout August and September in an attempt to mitigate the migrators,” Wilson’s report reads. “The cost to do this is $9,600 for two months, once per week.”
The additional falconry resulted in a deficit of about approximately $10,000 for the year, but was money that was very well spent, Wilson told councillors, adding that there seem to be far fewer seagulls in the area than last year.
Council will undertake the services of the company again in 2020, at the cost of approximately $35,000. Wilson said the company has indicated it typically takes three years for its methods to become effective.
In addition to the services of Rentokil, the township has been covering waste at the Scotch Line landfill much more regularly – once a day instead of the one time per week that is required in the facility’s environmental compliance approval from the province.
Councillor Bob Carter wondered if much of the decrease in the gull population may not just be a result of more efficient operations at the landfill, and wondered how long the township should go on paying a company for mitigation services. Also, since different groups of birds have different patterns, “I’m wondering, are we fighting a losing battle?” Carter said.
“We’re getting close to the end of what I feel is our responsibility to the public on this matter,” said Mayor Brent Devolin, stressing the township had done its part to clean up its facility, and that there are other food sources for gulls, including at private businesses, within Minden.
One of the Mountain Lake residents who made a presentation to council last year told the Times she has noticed a reduction in the number of gulls on the lake. While earlier in the summer it looked quite promising, by late summer she said she could still count as many as 300 gulls in her area of the lake, but said this was down from 700 at the peak last summer.